What type of doctor should I see for shoulder pain?

According to the National Institute of Health, shoulder pain is one of the most common regional pain syndromes, and if left untreated has the potential to significantly affect a person’s quality of life. Shoulder pain can range from mild to severe and there are a myriad of potential causes so visiting your doctor is an important step in finding a cure.

Finding the right doctor is an important step in moving forward with treatment and toward pain resolution. Below are some different options of doctors and specialists that could help identify the cause of shoulder pain or provide treatment.

Primary Care Doctor

If you’re unsure of the specific cause of your shoulder pain, or require a referral for a specialist, a general physician is a good place to start. A general physician has a solid understanding of the body’s anatomy and physiology as a whole so may be able to determine a cause or suggest a more specialized doctor based on your situation.

At a general physician appointment, you will likely have a conversation with your doctor about when the pain started, its severity, where specifically you feel pain, and if you have any known causes. Your doctor will likely also perform a physical exam of the shoulder to better assess range of motion, physical appearance, and identify specific pain points. Based on the assessment, the general physician may refer you to a specialist or suggest treatment options.

Orthopedic Doctor

If shoulder pain requires additional testing, specialized treatment, or surgical intervention, you may be referred to an orthopedic doctor. Orthopedic Doctors specialize in the musculoskeletal system including bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons, all of which have the potential to affect shoulder pain. In addition to an in-depth consultation, an orthopedic doctor will likely request additional tests be performed such as an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan to gain a deeper understanding of the specific situation.

Pain Management Doctor

If you are experiencing shoulder pain due to illness, injury or after surgery, a pain management doctor could offer significant relief. Pain management doctors complete additional training in pain management fellowship programs and specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of pain. Depending on the severity and cause of your shoulder pain, a pain management doctor may recommend physical therapy, injections or bracing among other options to help reduce your pain.

Why a Pain Management Doctor May Be Right For You

A pain management doctor can provide a comprehensive evaluation of your shoulder pain and work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan that takes into account your unique medical history, pain severity, and personal goals. They are trained in a variety of non-invasive and minimally invasive treatments that can help alleviate shoulder pain, including physical therapy, medication management, and nerve blocks.

Pain management doctors have the necessary expertise to identify the underlying causes of your shoulder pain. Your shoulder pain may be related to a number of conditions, such as rotator cuff tears, frozen shoulder, or arthritis. By treating the root cause of your shoulder pain, pain management doctors can not only alleviate pain but also prevent further damage and reduce the likelihood of chronic shoulder pain.

At Capitol Pain Institute, we work with you to get you the care you need. Once our pain management doctors have your imaging and lab results, they’ll carefully review and deliver a precise diagnosis so you can collaboratively develop the best plan to alleviate your pain. Whether you tend to be more conservative in your medical decision making or you prefer a more aggressive approach, we want to work with you to develop a treatment plan that fits your lifestyle.

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Depending on the cause of your shoulder pain, the specific doctor that can best help you and treatment options will vary. A pain management doctor can help diagnose the specific cause of pain and understand the effect of any underlying conditions that cause or perpetuate it. After the cause of pain is diagnosed, your doctor can help you find the treatment that will work best for you whether it’s physical therapy, injections, or other interventions.

No matter what the cause, a pain management doctor is there to support you in managing your pain by coordinating with different treatment providers, checking on your physical and mental health, being an advocate for you, and addressing your concerns throughout the healing process. Treating shoulder pain is far from a universal approach, so consulting with a doctor can provide the guidance and treatment you need to reduce shoulder pain and improve your overall quality of life.

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